A $60,000 grant administered through the East Tennessee Community Design Center has been awarded to the city of Knoxville by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The new Invest Health initiative is aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality
Knoxville and Jackson are the two Tennessee cities among the 50 mid-size cities in 31 states selected to receive the grant. Cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 were asked to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related. The Knoxville team includes: Becky Wade, Knoxville Community Development; Phyllis Nichols, Knoxville Area Urban League; Martha Buchanan, Knox County Health Department; Gerald Green, Metropolitan Planning Commission; and Susan Martin, University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Michelle Eichinger of Designing4Health, LLC, who assisted in developing the team’s proposal, will help in process facilitation.
According to Wayne Blasius, ETCDC executive director, “The team will explore equitable transportation solutions and mixed-use development, including local transportation and planning policy change, and integrate health impact in the planning process in development projects. Further, the team will develop a coordinated, collaborative approach and explore funding strategies to support health equity in the community planning and the built environment.”
Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health and a lack of investment, Blasius said.
Administrators of the grant believe the program has the potential to fundamentally transform the way Knoxville improves opportunities for healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions.